Against the Ban
Let's all stop for a minute and think about this. Has anyone ever stopped you from buying an R-rated movie? Nobody's stopped me. The other day I went to Target and bought the first three Saw movies, the Hangover, and Superbad (it was a crazy night, okay) and nobody even batted an eyelash. What makes an M-rated video game any different than an R-rated movie? Video games in recent years have become more than just a mere distraction from every day life; they've evolved into an art medium, into a device used for story telling. Would you stop a mature 16 or 17 year old from buying a movie like Requiem for a Dream or Schindler's List or any R-rated movie where the violence was used for a purpose? No, you wouldn't. However, I'm sure many people would stop their teenagers from buying a game like Heavy Rain.
The game has the player tracking down a serial killer known as the Origami Killer and is highly cinematic; there's very little traditional game play. It's an entirely new breed of gaming. This is only one example in a recent trend of games that set out to leave the player with some kind of message, something that movies and books have been doing for decades. So why are video games treated so much differently than movies or any other art form? The answer lies in the past.
The rise of video games occurred in the late 70s and early 80s, with the release of Pong and the Atari 2600. Back then, video games were very simple and aimed at young children. Games like Tetris, Pac-man, and Donkey Kong were simple, repetitive, and lacking anything resembling a plot or, for that matter, violence. It is my belief, that the reason we currently have such an issue with people wanting to ban violent video games, is they assume that they are still marketed to kids who are still in grade school (Ages 5-11 for non US readers). However, most of the people who buy violent video games are 18 or older, many are even middle-aged. Violent games like Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto are all targeted at people in their late teens and early 20s. No video game designer is trying to get 10 year olds a game like Grand Theft Auto, full of hookers, alcohol, and guns. Unfortunately, the image of video games being exclusively bought by young children has not yet left the public consciousness.
I think that what needs to happen, is a separation by video games that are more intense and for older players (like the aforementioned games) and games with simpler game play, that have less of a story, but are more suitable for small children (Pokemon, Super Mario, Little Big Planet). They're becoming two entirely different mediums, and just because they play on the same consoles does not make them equal. In any case, no art medium should ever be banned without a very good cause, as it violates the First Amendment. Violent games should be left on the shelves, and while I do think that there should be an age limit, eighteen is just way too high.